Top Reasons John McCain and Lindsey Graham have no Credibility for Egypt Talks

Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham were apparently asked by President Obama to go to Egypt and try to mediate the conflict between the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood. They are saying some of the right things while in Cairo. The problem is that they have no credibility on the issues involved.

1. McCain and Graham are urging the interim Egyptian government to engage in dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood. But in winter of 2011 just after the fall of Mubarak, this is what McCain said:

” SPIEGEL: What is your assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood?

McCain: I think they are a radical group that first of all supports Sharia law; that in itself is anti-democratic — at least as far as women are concerned. They have been involved with other terrorist organizations and I believe that they should be specifically excluded from any transition government. “

The phrase “they have been involved with other terrorist organizations” suggests that McCain considered the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, just as Gen. Sisi does. One of the pretexts on which Sisi has jailed several Muslim Brotherhood leaders is their ties to Hamas and “terrorism.” So how would McCain argue him out of that stance. And someone on record as wanting the Brotherhood excluded from the Essam Sharaf transitional government isn’t in a very strong position to now argue that the Brotherhood should be part of Egypt’s future democratic process.

2. McCain insisted that there was in fact a military coup in Egypt on July 3, and called for political prisoners (the former Muslim Brotherhood elected government) to be released. But McCain supported the military coup of 1999 by Gen. Pervez Musharraf against the elected government of Muslim League leader Nawaz Sharif. McCain dismissed Pakistan under Sharif (who has just returned to power, while Musharraf is under house arrest for having illegally overthrown the government). McCain said, ““Prior to Musharraf, Pakistan was a failed state,” McCain said. “They had corrupt governments and they would rotate back and forth and there was corruption, and Musharraf basically restored order.” That is exactly what Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the July 3 coup would say about the Egypt of deposed president Muhammad Morsi.

3. Graham doesn’t like people to win elections if he doesn’t like them. When the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, won the Palestine Authority elections in early 2006, Graham rejected their legitimacy: ‘Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican senator, called the results “a de facto declaration of war by the Palestinian people against the state of Israel.” ‘ (Toronto Star, January 27, 2006). The US CIA engineered a coup by the PLO against Hamas and overthrew it in the West Bank, but couldn’t dislodge it in Gaza. Why should Gen Sisi treat the Muslim Brotherhood better than Graham treated the fairly elected Hamas Party?

4. One of the Muslim Brotherhood figures in jail is business tycoon Khairat al-Shater, whom the interim government charges with exercising a Svengali-like influence over Morsi and the Egyptian government even though he was not an elected official. WaPo said in spring, 2012, “Mr. Graham said he noticed that Mr. Shater seemed to wield considerable power without holding any public office, and that he saw some American parallels. ”I think they call that Chicago,” the senator said.

5. The US wants the Egyptian military either to free the Muslim Brothers it is holding or to charge them and try them for specified statutory crimes. But Sisi sees them as ‘terrorists,’ guilty of attacks on innocent non-combatants when they ordered a Brotherhood paramilitary group to attack demonstrators in front of the presidential palace in Heliopolis on Dec. 6, 2012. Since Graham wanted Djokhar Tsarnaev treated as an enemy combatant and denied a civil trial, he is hardly in a position to tell the Egyptians they shouldn’t treat the Brotherhood the same way.

6. Graham and McCain are urging the Egyptian authorities to talk to the Muslim Brotherhood and find a compromise, to engage in “inclusive dialogue.” But from Obamacare to Benghazi they have been relentless in their refusal to talk to President Obama in good faith on a whole range of issues and seldom compromise with him. Imagine, the GOP telling Egyptians how to do democracy…

AFP reports

Posted in Egypt | 63 Responses | Print |

63 Responses

  1. I wouldn’t have thought John McCain has any credibility for talks anywhere. He lost all his credibility when he sang a song about lets “bomb bomb bomb Iran” etc. Clearly the man is an oaf.

    • Credibility with whom?

      Do you think the Egyptian military establishment holds it against John McCain that he’s a hawk, or anti-Iran?

  2. Perhaps the President feels he is going to need their support on other issues, and is massaging their egos?

    • It is very common practice for the President to send opposition figures as envoys to governments that are more ideologically aligned with the opposition. For instance, George W. Bush sent Jesse Jackson to talk to Gadhaffi.

    • Or maybe he is setting them up to look like idiots and embarrass the GOP!!

  3. Graham and McCain should take care of business at home, SC and Arizona, before getting in their private jet and flying off to Egypt. I know as a resident of SC we could use some of that aid Sen. Graham is so proud of being spent (wasted) in Afghanistan.

    Graham told the Egyptian generals…”You can’t talk to people while they are in jail.” Really? This is man who supports prisoners rotting in Cuba and drones assassinating women and children is claiming moral authority over Egypt?

    Israel has already dictated the US should continue the $2 billion aid package so Egypt doesn’t erupt into an angry cauldron.

    • Item #5 above got me thinking about how to restore American credibility so we chould have moral stature to chasten others on holding people without charge –

      we need to start releasing men from Gitmo.

  4. If ever there was a time for the US to resist pressuring Egyptian authorities in the name of “democracy” and “human rights,” this is it. Both sides–Morsi and his supporters and General al-Sisi and his supporters–blame the US for their problems. General al-Sisi gave an interview on August 5 to the Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth, in which he expressed anger at the United States for tilting toward Morsi. Now is not the time to send McCain and Graham to Cairo to push our preferences and aggravate al-Sisi even further.

    We should let the Egyptians work these issues out for themselves while maintaining friendly and correct relations with whomever is in power. To continue inserting ourselves in Egyptian politics, roiled as they are, is to invite continued disdain from both sides. Moreover, it puts the US front and center to be blamed for whatever the issue of the day happens to be.

    We should back off a bit and recognize this as an example where John Quincy Adams’s dictum concerning America applies: “She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.” Good advice then. Certainly good advice in the case of Egypt’s current transition.

    • We should let the Egyptians work these issues out for themselves

      We should let the wolves and the sheep work out their problems for themselves, too. I’m sure all the fighting will be over very quickly.

      We’ve seen how this Egyptian military government “works out” issues with the MB.

      • “We should let the Egyptians work these issues out for themselves. We should let the Egyptians work these issues out for themselves”

        Wise words!!
        Let everyone put their own house in order.

      • “We’ve seen how this Egyptian military government “works out” issues with the MB.”

        Just as we’ve seen how the MB (Morsi) when in power distorts and subverts the very democratic process that brought it to power. Our concern should be for a government with which we can work to protect the US interest, not to become exercised over whether or not it meets our definition of “democracy.” (I refer you to John Quincy Adams’s dictum, quoted in my comment above.)

        • Our concern should be for a government with which we can work to protect the US interest, not to become exercised over whether or not it meets our definition of “democracy.”

          Things have changed, Bill. Once upon a time, authoritarian, undemocratic regimes could be relied upon to adequately protect American interests (as long as we were willing to overlook their bloody acts). Today, such a regime is going to be wracked by protests (or civil war) and/or export its instability to its neighbors, destabilizing an entire region (like Gadhaffi used to do). There is no such thing as a quiet, reliable dictatorship anymore.

        • “Things have changed, Bill. Once upon a time, authoritarian, undemocratic regimes could be relied upon to adequately protect American interests (as long as we were willing to overlook their bloody acts). Today, such a regime is going to be wracked by protests…”

          I did not suggest that we “prop up” or “support” the current regime headed by General al-Sisi against the MB and opposition, Joe. My original post on the subject stated explicitly that we should maintain friendly and correct relations with whomever is in power. Moreover that we should let the Egyptians sort this out and not insert ourselves into the mix. As it is, the military has established the current government, and that is the government with which we should work to advance and protect US and mutually agreed interests.

          Regarding your contention that an authoritarian government is going to be wracked by protests and instability, that may be, but there is little that we can do about it. More to the point, ironically it was Morsi’s attempted subversion of the democratic process that brought him to power that led to the very protests and instability you mention in regard to authoritarian government.

      • So, we have the ‘wolves’ (military) and the poor little ‘sheep’ (MB). Where did everyone else go? I mean the majority of the Egyptian people ..

      • “What, no “US interests” in Egypt?”

        Of course we have interests, Mr. Hansen. My point is we should not be hectoring either side in Egypt. Let the Egyptians work it out among themselves. In the meantime, let’s maintain friendly relations with the government in power in order to advance and protect our interests.

        • In the meantime, let’s maintain friendly relations with the government in power in order to advance and protect our interests.

          IOW, takes sides with the military regime.

          I’m sure an MB government that comes to power if they country blows up will “protect our interests” if we do that.

    • EXCELLENT, very , very sensible comment. You are perfectly right, the truth is that the Muslim Brotherhood haven’t had anything good to say about the US since – or even before – they were voted into power (such glaring differences between what they say in Arabic for internal consumption and what they say in English). I think we Egyptians should work our issues out for ourselves as you say, and stop this eternal looking for ‘foreign approval’.

  5. These top 10 lists are becoming really annoying. Where, instead, is an informed comment regarding the recent speech coming our of Iran denouncing Israel, and so on? That is what I would prefer to read here.

  6. I just assumed that McCain-Graham were tapped to “negotiate” because:

    1. It gets them out of DC
    2. Any solution they arrive at will automatically have their buy-in, instead of their knee-jerk opposition
    3. They finally get to “put their money where their mouths are” and experience the frustration of trying to be part of the solution, for a change.

    Not that McGraham is likely to have much success. But this will burnish the President’s “bipartisanship” in the eyes of the talking heads – and tar both Graham and McCain as RINOs etc for working for a (black!!) Democrat.

  7. Sending John McCain to broker peace in Egypt is like having Grandpa Simpson be a panellist on child rearing. It’s simply a bad idea from the get-go.

  8. McCain and Graham aren’t going to mediate between the military and the Brotherhood. They’re going to talk to the military. The State Department is talking to the Brotherhood.

    The military is more comfortable with the pro-military hawks, and the MB is more comfortable with the relative doves in the State Department. The Obama administration is simply picking its messengers based on the audience.

    McCain and Graham are perfect picks for this job, just like Jesse Jackson was a perfect pick for George W. Bush to send to Gadhaffi during the rapprochement in the 00s.

    • Actually, the State Department is talking to both sides. During his most recent (and second) trip to Cairo Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met last Saturday with members of a pro-Morsi delegation. On Sunday Burns met with General al-Sisi.

      • Apparently, State isn’t getting through to the generals, and the administration thinks that the McCain faction will meet with more success. They speak the generals’ language.

        • “Apparently, State isn’t getting through to the generals,…”

          Your statement, cited above, makes sense only if your underlying premise is that the generals have an obligation to do what we tell them to do. I’m surprised at your stance on this issue, Joe. I was always under the impression that you objected to the US imposing its will on foreign governments.

    • The Egyptian military is not free to make decisions. At the moment, they represent millions of Egyptians and any decisions they make have to be acceptable to these millions. So, even if Al Sissi had wanted to, he could not have agreed to McCain and Graham’s outrageous demands. Ditto for anything that could come out of mediation between State and MB. The same millions (not the MB) would have to accept …

      • That old bit about a minimum quantum of “legitimacy” being needed to rule, or its equivalent in well-organized, monomaniacal repressive power, or the poop hits the air handler.

      • But the United States can’t talk to, and Egypt can’t operate its state through, millions. That’s what governments are for.

        Of course any political leadership is going to have its freedom of action limited by the need to keep its base of support satisfied. The U.S. State Department and the McCain/Graham delegation are similarly constrained by the American millions. Still, statecraft requires interaction between parties capable of sitting down, coming to a decision, and acting.

        • Good point, Joe. What you need to understand is that the legitimately elected political leadership that Egypt had for the past year was completely unable to keep its base of support satisfied. Quite the contrary. Morsi’s ‘base of support’ were the people who voted him into power (he could never have become president based ONLY on MB votes), many of whom he promptly jailed. And the United States was somehow able to talk to the SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces)for about a year and a half directly after Mubarak was removed from power. Those Egyptians looking for US support are asking it to ‘talk to’ and ‘operate through’ an interim government for a period of 9 months.
          But your point about statecraft and parties that can sit down and act is an excellent one. Egypt has to prove whether it is as yet capable of this …

  9. What is Obama up to sendin Mcain & Graham 2 Egypt? I suspect he is up 2 something and doesn’t want those 2 troubl makers around so he sent them away.

  10. >> Graham doesn’t like people to win elections if he doesn’t like them.

    Just like the author. Hypocrisy seems to have no bounds.

  11. Excellent article.
    Also, where was the US pressure when Morsi
    was jailing people and committing undemocratic practices.
    Is that double standard or what?

    • The US treated the elected government with more deference than the clique of officers who overthrew it?

      You don’t say. What a terrible double-standard.

      • I agree. They were pampering and cuddling
        Morsi’s government. They lost all credibility in my mind.

        • Amir,

          That’s Obama’s America: pampering and cuddling new democratic governments. Had some nationalist or leftist party won the elections, the U.S. would have been pampering and cuddling them, too.

          I’m sorry you find that so bothersome. I find it a refreshing change of pace.

      • Point is, the elected government was not overthrown by a ‘clique of officers’. But you won’t ever believe that, will you? Doesn’t really matter though, what you believe.

        • It matters to the extent that he and others can get still more others to believe what he or they believe or pretend to believe, or browbeat them other others into acquiescence. This is called “building a consensus around a policy.” Or something.

        • Point is, Sawsan, yes, it was. This is true, even if you think it was a good idea to do so. This is true, even if millions of people cheered while the clique of officers overthrew the government.

          They don’t have the legitimacy of constitutional authority. They don’t have the legitimacy of an election victory. A clique of officers, acting on no authority but their own, overthrew the elected government.

          Even if it was a good idea for them to do so, and even if they had a great deal of support, Egypt is still going to be balanced on a knife’s edge unless there can be democratic and constitutional legitimacy.

  12. Top evidence this nation is run by some unelected oligarchy and our democracy is on its last legs: Obama sends McCain and Graham as his emissaries to Egypt.

    • As things stand right now, Joe, there should be constitutional legitimacy in about 9 months. And maybe THIS TIME the result will also be a democratic political leadership. That is what Egyptians are hoping for. And I don’t think they will accept anything less.

      At the very least, there will be an Egypt – not a place that is nothing more than a safe haven for fundamentalist Islamist (whatever they are called) terrorists to gather in. I cannot fathom how US citizens like McCain and Graham can be so supportive of these groups (all allowed back into the country and released from its prisons by Morsi and his MB).

  13. “Perhaps the President feels he is going to need their support on other issues, and is massaging their egos?”

    Those are monumental egos that will take an enormous amount of massaging beyond the capacity of mere mortals.

  14. Graham and McCain are senile.
    Neither of those two remember breakfast much less
    something they muttered several years ago.

    Obama sent them to Egypt just to get them out of
    the country and off Sunday morning TV.

  15. John McCain before and after…..!!,
    When malicious benefits come together with Muslims Brotherhood,at the expense of the interests of the people in Egypt
    SPIEGEL interview with Republican senator and former presidential candidate John McCain since February , 2011.
    Politics is really a nasty and dirty work…. link to spiegel.de

  16. I have to agree with Lrobby99 – this isn’t cracked.com; stop with the lists.

    Perhaps Mr Cole has been told that reformulating any article into a list instantly adds 50% more pageviews. This ‘wisdom’ has certainly been pushed to every corner of the web.

    But I think it’s a mistake for this audience. We want analysis and opinion. Not lists. The type of reader that is attracted to lists isn’t interested in genuine insight from an expert.

  17. They need to get Senator Liberman to come out of the retirement for these trips to complete the Three Stooges. As is they look like reruns of Laurel and Hardy.

  18. These last two ‘top-ten’ posts have been disappointing.

    1. Mr. McCain seems to have it right in attempting to argue for the inclusion of Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian politics, does he not? That is the most democratic option: exclusion of no party. Actually — it almost makes Mr. McCain the /perfect/ envoy to send to Egypt seeing as he can relate most to Gen. Sisi in having once agreed with him, but has now improved his perspective on the matter. Who better to walk a powerful man through a change of perspective than one who has done it before?

    2. Suggestive, speculative remarks cannot be equal true remarks. Mr. McCain had never once deemed the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization; it is a stretch of the truth to say so. And to read that far into it is as well.

    3. In regards to Mr. McCain calling the coup a coup, was it not a coup? What is wrong for calling for the release of the Muslim Brotherhood prisoners? Perhaps McCain now understands that Pakistan was a mistake, and has changed his perspective over time. Learned from that prior experience. This does not make him a hypocrite; nor subtract credibility from his reputation — it shows he is not a stubborn individual but a dynamic one.. one who will learn, and change accordingly. Better to be a ‘hypocrite’ and speak the truth than be a sincere man speaking wrong.

    • You are right about the “inclusion of Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian politics”. The Brotherhood has a political party (F & J Party) and they were invited to take part in the new transitional process, from day one. They refused.

      The coup, of course, is a coup – but it only happened because there was no other way to stop the MB from destroying this country’s identity, economy and, above all, democratic aspirations.

    • 1. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

      2.

      SPIEGEL: What is your assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood?

      McCain: I think they are a radical group that first of all supports Sharia law; that in itself is anti-democratic — at least as far as women are concerned. They have been involved with other terrorist organizations and I believe that they should be specifically excluded from any transition government.

      Maybe that’s just a syntactical tic or something. link to pjmedia.com

      3. Is McCain a hypocrite, a sincere man, or a doofus? Or all threee? Here’s some history, from when his mind should by rights have been sharper than it is (back on April Fool’s Day, 2007):

      “Visiting Iraq, McCain Cites Progress on Safety Issues” link to washingtonpost.com

      “Baghdad merchants astounded at McCain’s claims of security / They say the market he saw, surrounded by GIs and humvees, wasn’t real life” link to sfgate.com

      “Snipers back at Baghdad market after McCain visit” link to reuters.com

      The stuff being so appropriately reported on is all just bullsh_t. Endless examples of the human idiocy that profits a few for a short while, lets them rule and steal and lie with great elan and eclat and support from some really sharp apologists who know where their bread is buttered or are so deep into the minutiae of Empire and global power and maintaining the Upward Path or trying very hard to get on the train themselves, that they can’t or won’t see where it’s all headed.

      Maybe the existentialists had something: we seem to be somewhere between “Waiting for Godot” and “No Exit…”

  19. To me, it was basically the President “Going thru the motions”. We could have found some more reasonably credible people beyond Senators McCain and Senator Graham. How about Keith Ellison, for instance–the only serving Muslim American In Congress? But, what do I know. :-(

  20. What are these old geezers up to? Don’t care but would they stop and brief Tel Aviv? Brotherhood and military are old foes and the feud will continue in the near future. I am more interested in the opposition and their position of king maker in Egyptian politics. It would be ironic if brotherhood was declared terrorist and Sisi to win presidential election. The opposition should be more assertive now or be mere spectator come peace or war.

    • I join JUAN COLE “Top Reasons John McCain and Lindsey Graham have no Credibility for Egypt Talks” because both of them they don’t seem to respect and believe in realizing fundamental rules of democracy in the middle east.

      • It’s not the US’s job to apply the ‘fundamental rules of democracy in the middle east’. It’s the job of the inhabitants ot the middle east.

        As a woman, I don’t understand why we need US military aid anyway. We certainly are not going to war (except against the terrorists blowing everything up in the Sinai)…

  21. This is not a coup. It is the second wave of the 2011
    revolution. Egypt is still in a revolutionary fervor.
    When Morsi started behaving like an autocrat and jailing his opponents, the people rose up to him in June 30 and beyond,
    with millions of protesters on the streets. Had the
    army not intervened, it would have led to a civil war,
    or to an outright storming of the presidential palace and
    ripping Morsi to pieces. I was there and saw it all.

    • Yes, Amir. So was I. But they won’t ever admit it, don’t waste your breath. And it does not matter, really. We are too obsessed with what others think

    • This is not a coup. It is the second wave of the 2011
      revolution.

      The thing is, it’s both. The second wave of the revolution expressed itself as a group of senior officers seizing power from an elected government by force, without authority. And yet, that act of seizing power was also an expression of dissatisfaction with Morsi’s undemocratic tendencies.

      Both of these things are true at the same time. It is a very complicate situation, loaded down with irony. A military coup for democracy vs. a democratically legitimate assault on democracy.

      This is exactly why the American response has been so delicate and nuanced.

      • Correct again, Joe. However, I truly believe that the act of the ‘coup’ could ONLY have taken place after the millions of Egyptians came out on the street to demand Morsi’s ouster. However much the military may have wished to combat the ‘democratically legitimate assault on democracy’, it would not have been possible without the people.
        The military’s involvement stems, in my opinion, from their understanding of ssues of national security as much as from any concern over democracy (that in itself may not have moved them sufficiently). It was (still is) a matter of national security concerns, plus Morsi’s dangerous last adddress to the nation (effectively a declaration of war on what are presumably his own people), plus the issue of people disappointed in his Mubarak-like blatantly undemocratic performance.

      • “This is exactly why the American response has been so delicate and nuanced.”

        Let’s hope the American response remains delicate and nuanced, Joe. I am not optimistic, though. Sending McCain and Graham to hector the generals into seeing things as we would like them to be seen was hardly what I would call “delicate and nuanced.”

  22. “that act of seizing power was also an expression of dissatisfaction with Morsi’s undemocratic tendencies.”

    I would love for the tiny group of Egyptian posters here to offer a little straw poll on why they believe the military officers did what they did, and a subsidiary question about why the troops follow their orders. There’s lots of “nuance” and “complexity” there, no doubt — along with all the stuff that “analysts” are supposed to detect and correct for. But the little I can glean is that “the military,” to the extent such a heterogeneous bunch of bandits can be rolled into a personification, acted to protect its/their own substantial perks and profits. Which of course are at risk in event of a 1789 kind of event, or the more modern versions. Any idea how many senior Egyptian officers are moving their capital, the “pound” and “family” kind, to “safer realms?” (“We” can sort of track the loyalties of “our” corporate officers from the stuff in SEC filings showing some of their holdings…)

    An old friend of mine, a former Iraqi world-class bicycle racer, here in the US on a work visa with our mutual employer as sponsor, said it was pretty simple: “People in my part of the world love and respect a Strongman, even if they might fear him, and prefer that kind of government. There is corruption, but we have known forever how to live with that…”

    We got people playing the Game with us as tokens and sacrificial pawns. But I don’t hear anybody saying what the goal(s) of the Game might be, and to infer it from observing the play, it seems to be some combination of Marbles with “us” having a giant over-sized stainless steel shooter, and “He who dies with the most toys wins,” and “Kill ’em all, and let their fusty gods sort ’em out.”

    Egyptians and other Others (from “our” rustic point of view, that is) have good reason to think and worry and fear what “they,” in this case our very own Western oligarchy, thinks. Because Shah and Nicaragua and Jonas Savimbi and Diem and dozens of others, and because thousands of hair-trigger nuclear weapons, and “sanctions” as an act of war/obscure, and the reach of “our” post-national, trans-national corporations, and even on account of that guy Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler and his successors and his illuminations. The goal of the US rulership sure does not seem even arguably to be to make the world safer for all us humans to live together in — rather, just to make the world simply more “ours.” Which of course means “theirs.”

    Beware lean and hungry men, who have, or imply the existence of, reasoned, nuanced, deep, detailed explanations for every act of seemingly, to the ingenue’s eye, murderous, and/or greedy, and/or consumptive, and/or dead-end-imperial “statecraft,” that compound shadow that they hide all their parasitical and predatory and cancerous behaviors behind…

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